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New Proclamation Concerning the Health of Agricultural Workers

by | Aug 21, 2020 | Agricultural Law, Land Use, Environmental Law

On May 28th, Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-57, Concerning the Health of Agricultural Workers. This proclamation prohibits any agricultural employer from continuing to operate (effective June 3) unless it complied with all provisions of the Agriculture COVID-19 Requirements—Provisions for All Worksites and Work-Related Functions.

Yesterday, in response to the growing infection rate among agricultural workers, and the three recent deaths in Okanogan County, the Governor issued a revised order, Proclamation 20-57.1, which amends the Agriculture COVID-19 Requirements—Provisions for All Worksites and Work-Related Functions. Those amendments are summarized below:

  1. Subsection (k) Testing Generally

    • Employers must ensure access to COVID-19 tests for symptomatic employees and other workers, when required by health department officials, within 24 hours. Employers must provide transportation as needed and designate a person or persons who will be readily identifiable as the testing facilitators.
  2. Subsection (o) Testing Required

    • Employers are required to ensure timely COVID-19 testing of the entire workforce upon the occurrence of either of the following:
      • The local health jurisdiction reports that the employer’s workforce has more than nine positive cases within a 14-day window; or
      • The local health jurisdiction determines that the employer’s workforce has an attack rate greater than or equal to 10% of the workforce within a 14-day window.
    • The employer must not permit any worker who declines a test to return to work.
    • For any employer whose workforce is divided between two or more “workplaces,” as defined under subsection (b)(ix), the 14-day metrics and testing requirements apply to the workplace.
    • The foregoing requirements do not apply if DOH reviews and approves a different testing strategy.
  3. Subsection (p) Isolation

  • In the event an employer or housing operator elects to isolate COVID-19-symptomatic or positive employees in temporary worker housing units, employers must monitor the employees. In addition to the requirements set forth in the administrative code provisions, employers must adhere to the following protocols for any employee or employees isolated at temporary worker housing units:
    • Ensure that a licensed healthcare professional visits employees twice per day, at the employer’s expense. At a minimum, the healthcare professional must assess symptoms, vital signs, and oxygen saturation via pulse oximetry, and perform a respiratory exam;
    • Guarantee that the employees have ready access to telephone service to summon emergency care;
    • Ensure that employees in isolation have access to advanced life support emergency medical services within 20 minutes;
    • Ensure that employees in isolation have access to and an emergency room with ventilator capability within one hour;
    • Provide employees with information about paid leave and workers compensation; and
    • Permit access to other medical professionals who offer healthcare services in addition to those required under subsection (i) of this subsection (p).
  • There is a potential option of housing infected or symptomatic workers in an off-site state-funded and county-managed isolation center, but more information on the availability of these centers is necessary to determine if this option is a viable alternative.

More information on the Governor’s proclamation is available here.

This proclamation is in addition to the new rules on temporary worker housing that went into effect on May 18, available here.